Monday, March 21, 2016

St. Benedict

Mural of St. Benedict at St. Meinrad Archabbey

St. Benedict died today, March 21, 543, although his feast day was shifted to July 11 on the new calendar. This is also the day four years ago the Bear and his mate made their initial pledge as Benedictine oblates.

St. Benedict is known as the Father of Western Monasticism. He founded the great abbey at Monte Cassino in Italy. His most important achievement was writing his famous Rule, which is still used by Benedictine monasteries, and -- in spirit -- by oblates.

Although it seems difficult and even harsh by today's standards, by 6th century standards it was moderate. St. Benedict did not want to leave behind a rule that no one would follow. There are almost nostalgic concessions to the weaknesses of his day. For example, he has the monks go through the psalms in one week, although he observes that in the old day, monks went through them in one day. (We're up to a month these days.) He establishes the Opus Dei, the regular orbit of psalms through the week, and each day's epicycles. Similarly, the monks are only to have a half bottle of wine. "We read that monks should not drink wine at all," St. Benedict writes, "but since the monks of our day cannot be convinced of this, let us at least agree to drink moderately, and not to excess." But in typical Benedictine fashion, he allows the Abbot to make exceptions.

St. Benedict's Rule is a work of genius, and well worth reading by lay persons. Much of it gives instruction in Christian virtues. To say it is grounded in Holy Scripture is an understatement. Hardly a sentence is without a quote from the Bible.

St. Benedict died, it is said, a few days after his sister, St. Scholastica, but not before he was given the heartbreaking certainty that his beloved monastery would be destroyed. However, it would be rebuilt and Benedictine monasticism survives today, although religious vocations may be less than might be hoped.


  1. >>not before he was given given the heartbreaking certainty that his beloved monastery would be destroyed. <<

    Was this by divine revelation of the future? The accounts I've seen state Monte Casino was destroyed quite some time after his death.

    This does seem to be a consistent pattern in the lives of the great founders. Many were all but thrown out of their orders in their own lifetimes. I wonder if that is not part of their final purification from attachment even from great and sacred works.

    I believe that is worth reflecting on for Catholics in these times as parishes are closed, institutions collapsing in one way or another, and the TLM having been suppressed--at least on a practical basis. That is, a purification from attachment to sacred things that are a means to God, leading to one to complete abandonment of the will to God Himself.

  2. It was destroyed in 585 A.D. by the Lombards, and more times thereafter. He was a saint.

    "Almighty God has decreed that this entire monastery and everything I have pro­vided for the community shall fall into the hands of the barbarians,’ the saint replied.” I don't know why this would not be by divine revelation, to the extent our accounts of his life, chiefly Pope Gregory the Great's, are historical.

  3. Chapter 4
    The instruments of good works

    (36) Not to be a great eater.

    Rule of Benedict


Moderation is On.

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